ANI Photo | Delhi HC reserves order on plea of Shibu Soren challenging Lokpal proceedings

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday reserved its order on appeal of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Shibu Soren challenging the single judge order.
The single-judge bench had refused to interfere with the Lokpal proceedings against Soren on the basis of a complaint filed by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey in the Disproportionate Assets (DA) case.
The division bench of Justices Rekha Palli and Rajnish Bhatnagar reserved after hearing the submissions by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Counsel for complainant BJP MP Nishi Kant Dubey.
However, the court indicated that it is not inclined to grant relief.
“Most likely, we are not inclined,” the bench said.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appeared for Shibu Soren and argued that Lokpal can’t initiate inquiry and can’t issue notice to Shibu Soren as the matter is beyond the imitation of 7 years.
He further submitted that Lokpal shall not enquire or investigate any complaint if a complaint is made after 7 years since that alleged offence is said to be made.
He also submitted that the properties were purchased in 1992 and the complainant was made much later.
On the other hand, Solicitor (SG) General Tushar Mehta stated that even the maintainability of the complaint can be decided by the Lokpal.
SG Mehta argued that it is to be decided by the Lokpal whether the matter is beyond limitations or not.
He further argued that there options available with the Lokpal. It can order for investigation, closure of proceedings, and departmental enquiry.
The counsel for Nishi Kant Dubey said that more than 80 properties were accumulated. It is not only the question of disproportionate assets; it involves corruption also.
The High Court said it will pass the order today.
The Delhi High Court on January 22, 2024, refused to interfere with the proceedings of Lokpal.
Soren has filed an appeal though advocate Vaibhav Tomar. It is submitted that the finding of the Learned Single Judge that the writ petition before the High Court was premature is erroneous as it was the contention of the appellant that it was a case of patent lack of jurisdiction of the Lokpal to issue process in the complaint filed under Section 20(1) of the Act.
It is stated that there is a time limitation for making an investigation or inquiry by the Lokpal.
The appeal said that the jurisdiction of Lokpal under Section 14 has to be read with Section 53 of the Act where the limitation to investigate or inquire into the complaint is provided.
It is also submitted that Section 53 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 bars the Lokpal from enquiry or investigating into any complaint if made after the expiry of a period of 7 years on the date on which the offence mentioned in the Complaint is alleged to have been committed.
The petitioner has stated that a bare perusal of the complaint would indicate that the offence is alleged in the complaint are beyond this period of 7 years. It was, therefore, the case of the appellant or the writ petitioner that the proceedings initiated before the Lokpal was without jurisdiction, nullity and not maintainable in law.
In January 22 judgement, Justice Subramonium Prasad had said that This Court does not want to enter into this realm at this juncture and it is for the Lokpal to take a decision as to whether there is sufficient material to proceed further for investigation or not in order to sub serve the purpose for which the Act has been brought out.
The High court had rejected the contention of learned Senior Counsel for the Petitioner that the entire complaint is completely motivated and Lokpal would invariably order for investigation cannot be accepted.
“The Office of Lokpal is completely independent and an argument that the Lokpal would be influenced by political consideration cannot be countenanced. This allegation that the proceedings before the Lokpal is vitiated and can be politically motivated, cannot be accepted,” justice Prasad had said.
The high court had held, “The Lokpal will examine the entire matter independently and shall take a decision as to whether an investigation has to be ordered or not which order is always amenable for challenge under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. The CBI has submitted a preliminary inquiry and the Lokpal has to take a decision as to whether to proceed further in the case or not.”
The high court also said that the Lokpal is yet to apply its mind on the material provided by the CBI as to whether an investigation is necessary or not.
“It is well settled that while conducting an inquiry, the material that can be unearthed is limited compared to the material that is unearthed when an investigation is conducted by a competent authority,” justice Prasad had Said.
JMM Chief and Rajya Sabha MP Shibu Soren approached the High Court for quashing the complaint pending before Lokpal of India.
The petitioner had also prayed for quashing orders of August 5, 2020 and September 15, 2020 and August 4, 2022 passed by Lokpal in the said complaint.
BJP MP Nishikant Dubey had filed a complaint which was registered with Lokpal.
It is alleged in the said complaint that the Petitioner in his name and in the name of his family members including sons, daughters, daughters-in-law, friends, associates and various companies etc. has acquired several immoveable properties including plots of lands (residential, commercial and built up properties) in various districts of Jharkhand such as Ranchi, Dhanbad, Dumka etc.
It is also alleged that the Petitioner and his family members including his son have invested in various companies owned by one Amit Agarwal and his family members. It is stated that the said Amit Agarwal is a very close friend of the petitioner’s family.
The complaint stated that all the companies owned by Amit Agarwal despite having shown consistent losses in their books of accounts, have been purchasing large properties in and around Ranchi and Kolkata.
It is stated that the Petitioner has acquired properties completely disproportionate to his known sources of income. It is also stated in the complaint that the Petitioner has been indulging in corrupt practices for many years and has illegally usurped huge portions of the lands belonging to poor tribals of the Santhal tribe at throw away prices much below the prevailing circle rates.
Lokpal had passed an order under Section 20(1) (a) of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, directing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a preliminary inquiry against the Petitioner to ascertain whether there exists a prima facie case for proceeding in the matter.
On July 1, 2021, comments were sought from the petitioner Soren as required under Section 20(2) of the Act, on the nature of acquisition, cost of construction and source of funds for the 82 properties annexed to the said notice on or before July 15, 2021.
A reply was given by the petitioner on July 10, 2021 informing that he was not the owner of the said properties. The petitioner sought additional time of 60 days to submit his comments

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